BRC Issue 8: Food safety culture

Bertrand Emond, Head of Membership and Training

In this video Bertrand Emond, head of membership and training, talks about the new requirements for food safety culture in Issue 8 of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. He talks about the importance of food safety culture and how you can measure and improve your food safety culture. He also provides some tips on what you can do to meet these new requirements.

BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8 was released in August 2018 and the first audits will be conducted against the new standard from 1 February 2019.

About Bertrand Emond

Bertrand has a wealth of knowledge, experience and connectivity from working here at Campden BRI since 1988. Bertrand has a Master's in Food Science & Technology (Dijon, France) and a Master's of Business Administration (Bath, UK).

Bertrand is passionate about supporting the industry in the areas of skills, knowledge, training, learning and development, competency and achieving culture excellence through behaviour change. He won the 2020 BRCGS CEO Europe Award recognising his commitment and contribution to food safety and the 2014 Heinz Award for Excellence for Leadership in Collaborative CPD for the Industry (in particular for his role in supporting competency and CPD, promoting the food industry as a career of choice, and providing collaboration between all stakeholders).

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My name is Bertrand Emond head of membership in training at Campden BRI and I lead our activities related to food safety and quality culture excellence. You know the BRCGS global standard for food safety issue eight is the first GFSR recognised certification program to include the requirement specifically related to food safety culture. Recognising that it is a fundamental factor in ensuring product safety. BRC has been very clear that they are not attempting to audit and evaluate culture itself. The position is to encourage sites to be considering the importance of culture and therefore developing documented plans of actions and improving food safety culture, implementing the plans and evaluating their success.

These become measurable objective requirements that can be audited. So, what can you do to make sure you meet this requirement? First, I would like to step back a bit and answer a couple of questions that were asked very often. Why is everybody talking about culture now? And is it just a fad do I need to bother? What is culture and how can I measure it? So if we take the first question why is everybody talking about culture? There are number of drivers and in no particular order, you've got a rising number of unannounced audits which means that businesses need to be audit ready at all times and the best way to achieve this is to have a strong food safety culture, as part of continuous improvement it is the next step following say top elite score to get even better. It’s also worth noting that multiple outbreaks and incidents are seemingly good sites, I have highlighted the fact that traditional audit inspection is just not enough, and that cultural assessment is the missing piece in the jigsaw.

So there's also a growing interest in earn recognition and earned autonomy where if a business can demonstrate that they have their house in order and are striving to do the right thing and strengthening their culture their clients, example some of the retailers, and enforcement authorities are more likely to reduce the number of audits or visits.

A big one the global food safety initiative GFSI has just produced a very high-profile position paper to raise the profile of food safety culture and its importance on a global scale. Obviously BRCGS global standard has now included a requirement regarding food safety culture and its latest issue. Finally, insurance companies and venture capitalists are also very interested as a client with a strong food safety in quality culture is less likely to have problems, recalls and is more likely to perform better financially.

So, as you can see culture is not going to go away and it just makes sense. Now to my second question what is culture? Culture is a shared learn phenomenon. In business it's the way we do things around here. Directly and indirectly highlights to people how to fit in what is acceptable and how to succeed within their organization. In the context of quality and safety culture represents the prevailing attitudes and practices related to quality and safety, they are taught directly and indirectly to employees. In other words, the underpinnings of everything that happens whether desired or otherwise. Some elements of culture are easy to observe such as facilities, posters, paperwork and visible behaviours of staff. However, some are harder to see such as underlying values, unspoken rules and where things are done when no one is watching. Now, you can only improve things effectively if you can measure them.

When it comes to a fluffy complex multifaceted multi-dimensional concept like culture it can be quite challenging. So, if you're keen to understand your safety in quality culture, you have a number of options. First you can do a self-assessment. There are a number of tools freely available that can help you. For example, the check list produced by Food Standards Australia New Zealand which covers all the key areas you need to consider with some practical examples of what good looks like. Very useful simple easy-to-understand form. You can also look at a new GFSI position paper on food safety culture which includes some useful culture maturity tables describing what you would typically find that cites with a weak culture and at sites with a strong culture, so you can see where you are in the spectrum. It also has some great guiding questions you should ask yourself to assess how strong your culture is. Another option is for you to join our culture excellence program which is fully aligned with a GFSI culture document. Our assessment developed by Taylor Shannon international (TSI) is the result of almost two decades of research and development and has helped companies of many shapes and sizes to capture cultural data and use it to improve. It provides a clear and detailed insight into the many dimensions of culture, we currently use 20, that impact on food safety and quality allowing companies to benchmark themselves against others, create tangible improvements, reduce their risks and demonstrate where they excel. It also measures the return on investment and efforts of training programs and other initiatives.

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